"Sixpence House"

Sixpence House by Paul Collins

Paul Collins followed his dream and moved his family to the village of Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Hay-on-Wye is known as the “town of books” because it is a tiny village of less than 2000 people with more than 40 book shops. 

I was interested to learn that most of the shops deal with antiquarian books, which is also the author’s area of expertise. Most of the books he talks about and quotes from were unknown to me, but that didn’t lessen the enjoyment of reading his story. 

He has a quirky sense of humor, dry and sharp, that brings the characters in this unique place to life. He makes delightful new friends, he talks about old books like they are old friends, and treats all with respect and affection (well...almost all).    

When I finished it, I felt as if I’d spent a week in an old shop myself, walking the dusty aisles of aged book-friends, breathing in the musty scent and soaking up all the wisdom they have to offer. 

What a fine thing it would be to actually be there, but if you can’t, this might just be the next best thing.

'Slipping Into Paradise"

Slipping Into Paradise by Jeffery Moussaieff Masson

I knew very little about New Zealand before this book, and having read it I don’t feel like I want or need to learn anymore. Masson has me convinced it really is paradise. The author is so in love with the place that as a reader, I couldn’t help falling too. Not that he tells us only the good stuff; he’s honest about the social and other problems, but the good seems to far outweigh the bad. 

The book starts with a map - always a great first impression for me - and there’s an interesting chapter on flora and fauna, both native and those introduced later. Another intriguing chapter is about the native Maori people, how they live now and all that they lost when New Zealand was colonized by people who thought they had the right to move in and take over.

The last chapter is Masson’s personal itinerary of a road trip around both the North and South Islands showing us all the country has to offer and taking us to a few special places off the beaten track. 

All in all a good book, and if travel is in your future, I don’t see how you could read this and not want to go. It truly does sound like Paradise.  

"Tolstoy and the Purple Chair'

Tolstoy and the Purple chair by Nina Sankovitch

Three years after Nina Sankovitch's sister died, she decided to spend a year reading one book every day. It would be her priority, her work, for a full year and she would be looking for answers about why she deserved to live when her sister was dead, and how to go on living now without her. Her husband and four sons agreed to give her the time and space she needed to read and to write a review on her blog of every book she read.

As others have said, I was surprised that a woman would ask so much of her family, and that they would agree to it. I, too, was put off by her expecting her husband to be so understanding of her needs, but when his sister died shortly after the author's sister, she couldn't make herself go to the funeral with him. I admit I don't know all the details of their lives, but from what she has told us, it just seems a bit odd. 

I enjoyed reading this, but in the end I found it to be over-heavy with profound metaphors. I was hoping for more about the books, but I don’t feel like she was so much sharing books with me as she was hitting me over the head with the lessons she learned. It’s in her delivery, not in what she’s saying. The things she learned were good, but it felt like too much of a stretch trying to relate everything she read to her own situation. 

I did enjoy hearing about all the books, and I’m impressed that anyone could read a whole book every day. The background she gave us on her father’s life was for me the most interesting part, and I hope someday she’ll write a book telling us more about him. 

The list of 365 books read at the end was nice.